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ACC Basketball Power Rankings Heading Into Conference Play

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ACC Basketball Power Rankings Heading Into Conference Play

Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

Although two conference games have already been played, conference play in the ACC gets underway for every team starting on Saturday as all 15 teams begin the grind of a two and a half month long conference schedule. That makes now the perfect time to put together a power rankings based on how each ACC team has done during the non-conference part of their schedule and where they stack up against the rest of the teams in the conference heading into league play.

It’s actually been a disappointing season thus far for the ACC. The league was thought by many to be the best conference in college basketball heading into the season in large part because of the addition of two of the best teams from The Big East, the league that has reigned supreme over college basketball for the past five seasons. However, despite having both Syracuse and Duke ranked among the top-10 teams in the nation, the ACC has underperformed based on their high expectations and has just three teams in the top-25.

The ACC did have a few teams win some of the early-season tournaments which has helped the perception of the league, but they tied the Big 10 in the ACC-Big-10 Challenge and were lucky to do so. The ACC definitely didn’t appear to be as deep as their main competitor for the title of best conference in college basketball.

But inter-conference bragging rights will now take a backseat as we begin intra-conference play where it’s all about how you stack up against the teams in your conference, and this is how the 15 teams in the ACC rank heading into conference play.

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15. Boston College Eagles

Mark L. Baer - USATODAY Sports

The Eagles are well deserving of their spot at the bottom of the ACC. In their defense, they’ve played a lot of quality teams such as Providence, UMass, UConn, Purdue, USC, VCU, and Harvard, but that doesn’t mean much when you lose all of those games and lost all but a couple by a substantial margin. Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson are nice players, but outside of those two BC is a mess and could be on the verge of a nightmare season in the ACC.

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14. Miami Hurricanes

Steve Mitchell - USATODAY Sports

This is not the Miami team that went to last year’s Sweet 16, and it’s not even close. Outside of a win over Arizona State, there’s been nothing impressive about Miami’s season thus far. While they may not be the worst team in the league, it’ll be a struggle all season to get out of the bottom two or three spots. To make matters worse, four of their first six conference games are against either Syracuse, North Carolina, or Duke beginning with a trip to the Carrier Dome which means things could get real ugly in a hurry for the Hurricanes.

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13. Virginia Tech Hokies

Mark Dolejs - USATODAY Sports

An early-season win against West Virginia and a one-point win over Miami are enough to keep the Hokies from being considered the worst team in the ACC -- at least for now. However, Virginia Tech has suffered some real bad losses this season to the likes of USC Upstate and UNC Greensboro which indicates that it could be a long season for them in the ACC starting with a home game against Syracuse next week.

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12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Joe Camporeale - USATODAY Sports

To a certain extent, Mike Brey deserves the benefit of the doubt as his teams always seem to get their act together after a rough start and go on to have a good season. This year they’ll be doing it in a conference that’s considerably weaker than the league they just left, but the Irish are in real trouble this year. They’ve lost to Indiana State and North Dakota State, and while they beat Indiana and played close with Ohio State, they’ve also had trouble putting away weaker teams like Delaware, Bryant, and Canisius. What makes Brey’s job extra difficult this season is that he’ll have to turn Notre Dame around without Jerian Grant and his team-leading 19 points per game. Not only was Grant their best player, but the Irish have little depth without him and little time to prepare for life without him before conference play starts. That’s going to make staying competitive in the ACC a monumental task for Brey and the Irish this year.

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11. Virginia Cavaliers

Geoff Burke - USATODAY Sports

There was a lot of hope for Virginia this season, but they have had all kinds of problems scoring which is why they’ve lost three of their last five games heading into conference play. The Cavs have just one player averaging double digits in Joe Harris whose 11 points per game is five less than what he averaged last season. There should be no way Virginia is outside the top-10 teams in the ACC, but that’s where are right now because of their profound struggles on the offensive end.

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10. Clemson Tigers

Joshua S. Kelly - USATODAY Sports

The Tigers are an intriguing team, especially with the way K.J. McDaniels has played this season. But they’re hard to figure out; all three of their losses have come away from home, and it’s hard to criticize a neutral site loss to UMass or a road loss to Arkansas. But it’s also hard to find an impressive win during the pre-conference schedule. If they can get off to a fast start in the conference season they may be able to move up the ACC hierarchy, but it’s just as likely that they plummet towards the bottom of the conference standings.

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9. Maryland Terrapins

Evan Habeeb - USATODAY Sports

The Terrapins get credit for playing some good teams, and a one-point loss to UConn in the season opener doesn’t look so bad. But it’s been an uneven two months for Maryland, and even in some of their wins they haven’t looked all that good. They show signs of being a team that can play toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the conference while also losing to one of the league’s basement dwellers in the same week. There’s enough talent to make them a middle-of-the-road team in the ACC which is where they are right now, but they could also end up being one of the worst teams in the conference when all is said and done.

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8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Geoff Burke - USATODAY Sports

For the most part, Georgia Tech has beat the teams you’d expect them to beat and lost to the teams you’d expect them to lose to -- although a somewhat surprising win over Illinois has been the highlight of their season thus far. The Yellow Jackets rebound the ball well which will help keep them in games and make them competitive this season, but they’ve had trouble scoring points this season and they really struggle from the perimeter. This will make it tough for them to win games late and could keep them in the bottom half of the ACC this year.

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7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Bob Donnan - USATODAY Sports

The Demon Deacons have handled the weaker teams they’ve played this season, but they’ve also suffered double-digit losses against Tennessee and Xavier when given an opportunity to make a statement against quality teams. With Codi Miller-McIntyre averaging 17 points per game and Devin Thomas nearly averaging a double-double, there’s a chance that Wake Forest will be competitive this season and be in the NCAA Tournament conversation at season’s end. But they’re likely a year away from challenging to be one of the top-5 teams in the ACC.

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6. NC State Wolfpack

Rob Kinnan - USATODAY Sports

If you can forgive a November loss to North Carolina Central, the Wolfpack are in good shape, especially for a team that lost a lot of key players from last year’s team. They’re a bit too reliant on T.J. Warren, who’s averaging 24 points and eight rebounds per game, but they’ve beaten a handful of solid teams and should be able to hold their own in conference play.

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5. Florida State Seminoles

Phil Sears - USATODAY Sports

The Seminoles have exceeded preseason expectations thus far and have put wins over VCU and UMass on their resume while also playing close games with Michigan, Florida, and Minnesota. Florida State is a distant fifth right now and may not be able to compete with the top teams in the conference, but they’ll be a solid middle-of-the-pack team this season. If they can find a way to win close games and pull off a couple upsets, they’ll be an NCAA Tournament caliber team.

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4. Pittsburgh Panthers

Charles LeClaire - USATODAY Sports

The Panthers haven’t really been challenged this season, but they’ve taken care of business against inferior opponents as their only blemish is a one-point loss to Cincinnati. Like so many of the Pitt teams that use to finish atop the Big East year after year, this year’s Pitt team is led by veterans. And despite the rule changes in college basketball this year, they are tough and physical defensively. Pitt should make a rather quick and smooth transition to the ACC this year and quickly become a team that nobody wants to play.

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3. North Carolina Tar Heels

Mark L. Baer - USATODAY Sports

The Tar Heels have gotten a bad reputation for being unreliable and inconsistent, but they only have three losses. All of these dropped games came in close battles with Texas, UAB, and Belmont, and none of those losses are red flags -- even Belmont, who has gone to the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons. Wins over Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky prove that North Carolina can beat anybody, and even without P.J. Hairston they’re going to be a top team in the ACC this year.

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2. Duke Blue Devils

Rob Kinnan - USATODAY Sports

The Blue Devils have quality wins this season over UCLA and Michigan while their only two losses are against Kansas and Arizona, two of the top teams in the country. Behind one of the best scoring tandems in the country in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, Duke will once again be a top contender in the ACC and nationally in 2014.

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1. Syracuse Orange

Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

There’s no doubt that Syracuse is the top team in the ACC heading into conference play; they may even be the best team in the nation. The Orange already have six wins over major conference teams while freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has an assist to turnover ratio of 4.7 -- which is an incredible statistic for any player, let alone a freshman. In their first season in the league, the ACC is going to have to adjust to Syracuse and not the other way around, because the Orange are clearly the team to beat.